Hope in Fredericton
“We want to be here to say women do have a choice,
and to help them make a choice for life,’ says the founder of the
Mother and Child Welcome House
By Jill Little
After nearly two years in the planning, New Brunswick’s new pro-life service centre in Fredericton is becoming a reality.
The Mother and Child Welcome House was first conceived in the fall of 1998 when the centre’s founder, Peter Ryan, then pro-life director of the Vancouver Catholic archdiocese, was visiting Fredericton and saw the “forbidding looking, bunker style” abortion clinic set up by Henry Morgentaler in the capital city’s downtown district.
“I was dismayed by the clinic’s prominent location and thought how powerful a lure it would be to vulnerable mothers,” says Ryan. “I wondered what people could do about this place; how we could respond to it.”
It then occurred to Ryan that the best response may be to try to establish an alternative for those facing an unplanned pregnancy, right next door to the clinic. “Most women who have abortions say they have no choice,” says Ryan. “We wanted to be here to say they do have a choice and to help them make a choice for life.
“I also wanted to offer practical assistance to mothers. I thought it would be best to have a presence nearby, a service centre for mothers and families in need. We want it to be a centre of life and love, offering help to every mother, especially moms considering abortion and those who have already experienced abortions in New Brunswick. We wanted a centre which would have a high profile and could make an impact on the vast number of women in these situations.”
Local pro-lifers who picket weekly in front of the Morgentaler clinic informed Ryan that the owner of the house next to the clinic might be sympathetic to pro-lifers. When Ryan approached the owner, a local real estate company, to inquire about the building’s availability as a pro-life centre, the response was open and positive. With that response Ryan knew he had to make some decisions about his own future.
He had been considering moving back to New Brunswick to be closer to his mother. After a few months of prayer and discernment he and his family decided it was the right thing to do. Ryan approached pro-life leaders in New Brunswick and they said they would welcome him as executive director of the New Brunswick Right to Life Association. In the summer of 1999 Ryan returned to Fredericton to begin working for the Association and by that fall he began earnest discussions with the owner and other possible tenants about renting and eventually purchasing the property.
“In planning the centre, we realized it was critical to get other pro-life organizations involved,” says Ryan, who also has the distinction of being president of Campaign Life Coalition New Brunswick, a political voice for pro-life in the province. “Our vision for the Mother and Child Welcome House involves setting up a pro-life education centre, an administration office for the New Brunswick Right to Life Association, subletting office space for the Fredericton Crisis Pregnancy Centre and hopefully, a pro-life doctor.”
Once Ryan had an agreement with the partners it became clear early on that none of the organizations wished to become owners of the building but tenants. Therefore it was necessary to set up another legal entity – The Mother and Child Welcome House – to purchase the property. The building would be owned and operated by a small board of directors which includes Ryan and his wife Suzie, two local physicians, and a local pro-life activist.
Ryan says the name for the pro-life service centre is a reflection of its mission. “We want everyone to feel welcome here,” he says. “Our welcome extends to fathers, grandparents, all those whose lives have been touched by abortion. Our welcome also extends to our neighbors. We want to be good neighbors to the abortion clinic personnel. It is part of our mission to reach out with truth and love to Dr. Morgentaler and his staff. I feel it’s necessary to show the community that pro-lifers don’t hate abortionists. We are here to love and serve everyone.”
Prior to moving into the property, Ryan says the building had to undergo significant renovations to make the premises conducive to the ministries which would occupy the centre. The work involved renovating one floor of the two and-a-half storey structure, six rooms and two bathrooms. A considerable amount of the labour and materials were donated by local companies and tradespeople sympathetic to the cause.
“Our long-range plan for the building is to make it a very inviting, user-friendly place, with the best of services,” says Ryan. “Of course we know this will all take time and money, since it is a significant amount of work.”
One element of support is the new centre’s board of directors, a cross-section of community leaders, including representatives from several denominations and numerous professions.